Two articles published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature and in the newspaper The Guardian, respectively, discuss the implications of the reform bill modernizing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, currently under consideration in the U.S. Congress (FPF reported). In the Nature article, published on May 25, 2016, editor Jeff Tollefson highlights that, should the reform bill pass into law, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will have the authority to request more data from companies and can also require additional safety testing of chemicals. Further, EPA will be allowed to “determine the risks posed by a chemical without considering the economic implications of that decision.” Companies can no longer withhold information about chemicals from the public by claiming confidentiality, without a detailed explanation why the information should remain secret, Tollefson writes.

A more critical view is expressed in The Guardian article, published on May 27, 2016 and written by Ken Cook, president and cofounder of the non-profit organization Environmental Working Group. Cook states that the TSCA reform bill “does make some improvements,” but “continues to put the industry’s interests above those of the public.” He stresses that in the first year of enactment, the EPA will only be required to review ten out of tens of thousands of chemicals on the market that have previously been untested for safety. Further, the law does not give the EPA “adequate resources and clear legal authority to take timely action.” Also, companies could delay action on chemicals by taking the EPA to court. Cook concludes that people will remain exposed to hazardous chemicals, naming asbestos, formaldehyde, perfluorinated chemicals, chlorinated flame retardants, vinyl chloride, phthalates, and bisphenol A (BPA, CAS 80-05-7) as examples.

On May 24, 2016 the U.S. House of Representatives approved the TSCA reform bill and it was expected to be passed by the U.S. Senate and signed into law by U.S. President Barak Obama before the end of May 2016 (FPF reported). However, the passing of the bill was put on hold by the Senate on May 26, 2016, as reported by new sources Plastics News and Chemistry World.

Read more

Jeff Tollefson (May 25, 2016). “Why the historic deal to expand U.S. chemical regulation matters.Nature

Ken Cook (May 27, 2016). “Seven deadly poisons – and a law that won’t protect you fast enough.The Guardian

Gayle S. Putrich (May 27, 2016). “How one senator can delay the TSCA update.Plastics News

Rebecca Trager (May 27, 2016). “U.S. chemical regulation reform delayed yet again.Chemistry World